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Closing the Gender Gap Among Post Columnists

By Andy Alexander

An internal Post staff note this week announced that general assignment reporter Petula Dvorak, a veteran of nearly ten years at the paper, will be a new Metro columnist. It went on to mention her somewhat unusual reporting resume: Orange County Register in her native California, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and The Prague Post in the Czech republic.

Something else that’s somewhat unusual: She’ll be a female columnist.

There’s a shortage at the Post. Looking at its stable of regular columnists appearing throughout all sections, men outnumber women more than 3-to-1.

Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, who became The Post’s top editor last fall, had hinted strongly that he wanted a woman as a Metro columnist. Asked yesterday about the selection process, he told me that gender was “a consideration from the outset.”

Dvorak said she knew “the Y chromosomes outweighed the Xs among our columnist ranks” and that gave her an impetus to apply. “I figured my chances were 50 percent better in this contest,” she said.

The Post announcement said Dvorak has “a delightful writing touch, a great perspective on Washington and a strong desire to create a new voice” in print and online. It said she is being asked to “explore nothing less than the re-invention of the traditional column form.”

Ideas are still in the formative stage, she told me. But she’s looking to supplement her twice-a-week column in the newspaper with offerings online. This fits with the overall Post push for writers to have a presence on multiple platforms. It also makes sense now that former Metro columnist and multi-platform master Marc Fisher has moved to an editing role and put most of his blogging and podcasting and live chatting on pause.

Dvorak’s written pitch for the job, sent to editors when she applied many months ago, may offer clues of what’s to come. She proposed that her twice weekly columns should be a “storefront for a much larger enterprise online, an enterprise that makes strong use of interactive tools like podcasting and video.”

She also suggested a blog that would run on alternating days from her column in the paper. “The goal would be to increase interactivity and keep the conversation going with readers," she wrote.

Yesterday, she stressed that her job proposal was less of a “plan” than it was a reflection of her broad thinking many months ago. She’ll be working with editors to refine her ideas. No start date has been set. Stay tuned.

By Andy Alexander  | June 11, 2009; 1:04 PM ET
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Men outnumber women 3-1?

Liberals outnumber conservatives 5-1.

Posted by: ImpeachObama | June 11, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

This is great news. The hope is Petula will be allow to write in her own voice, rather than a male editor's idea of a columnist's voice. And give her time to report, please.

Posted by: carolmfrey | June 12, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Shock, shock, shock - the Post is full of white males. No story here.

Posted by: rlj1 | June 16, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

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